Geopolitics & Culture


This cluster explores a rich and diverse array of cultures, societies, and histories traditionally associated with global divisions of East and West. How have these geopolitical entities been historically constructed and imagined, represented and misrepresented, lived and inhabited? With a specific focus on the Middle East and its interactions with the West, we chart the emergence of global empires and colonialism and how this contributed to shaping conceptions of race, ethnicity, and identity in the modern age. 

How has the relationship between East and West—and between North and South—played out as one of dominance and conflict, oppression and resistance? Each course in the cluster explores this question on a micro level, at the level of people and their ideas. We look closely at specific geographical locales and time periods—in the United States, Europe, North Africa, the Iberian Peninsula, Palestine/Israel, the Levant, and the Gulf—what is broadly known as Western Asia. Some see a “clash of civilizations,” but we explore the productive exchange of ideas through coexistence—and communication—between peoples and cultures.


Asian and Middle Eastern Studies 106FS/ Documentary Studies 106FS/ Arts of the Moving Image 106FS — Documenting the Middle East: Oral History, Identity, and Community (ALP, CZ, CCI, R)


Nancy Kalow, Lecturing Fellow at the Center for Documentary Studies

Students in this course will study the documentary record of the Middle East in photography, film, and oral history. We will begin with studio photography of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and conclude with recent community-based, experimental, and student documentary production. How do communities document themselves, and why are social media, politics of representation, and aesthetics important in analyzing documentary research? The class includes a hands-on documentary component. We will learn best practices of documentary work and the nuts-and-bolts of audio recording, interviewing, transcribing, writing field notes, and editing. The documentary approach favors an open-ended and non-invasive interview process, in which interviewees offer deep reflections on their lives, historical events, and community or cultural traditions. Fieldwork from the class will be permanently housed at Duke's Archive of Documentary Arts. No prerequisites.

Literature 190FS - Social Movements and Social Media (CZ, EI, STS)

Negar Mottahedeh

Negar Mottahedeh, Professor of Literature; Professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies

This course considers the uses and abuses of social media by social movements. Interested in a broader historical study of mediating technologies and the oppositional public sphere, the course considers the uses of cameras, phones, cassette players, the radio, and social media platforms, but also books, bodies, art, fashion, and automobiles as oppositional technologies. The course studies the political and ethical uses of technologies in social unrest. It investigates the impact of technologies on social movements and social transformations in contemporary history. Student driven case studies will highlight contemporary engagement with social media by networked social movements.